Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade BarsI have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. Yes, it’s fun to see old pictures and moments from my college days, but there’s a dark side to it all. That terrible haircut I’ve blocked from memory? Here it is! Every bad fashion choice I’ve ever made? Displayed prominently on my iPhone screen! What appears to be a solid year of angsty statuses? Just…what?!

Pink Lemonade BarsLast week, I had daily reminders of last year’s vacation to Swans Island, Maine. I am currently sixteen days away from heading up there again and I am so. freaking. ready. Swiping through photos of my friends and me hiking, puzzling, and sunbathing has me going crazy waiting to get out of NYC. Don’t get me wrong—I love living here. I just need a break every once in a while.

The vast majority of our trip pictures from last summer are of the four of us collecting wildflowers and climbing over rocks and floating on inner tubes in the ocean, but there are also a few of my friend Liz and me baking in “our” rustic kitchen. We had a ball working together, and I’m so glad I documented it all on here. Our first effort was a Blue-Razz Pie made with foraged berries, but it’s the Lemon Bars that really have me feeling nostalgic for my favorite island off the coast of Maine. There’s just something about the combination of soft lemon filling and buttery shortbread crust that screams summer, am I right?!

Pink Lemonade BarsToday, I’m taking that classic recipe and combining it with another favorite–Pink Lemonade! These Pink Lemonade Bars are super lemony and delicious, and insanely easy 😊 The whole recipe requires just ten ingredients, and while the filling is just as soft and delicious as a classic lemon bar, it’s much less complicated. Sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks are the heavy lifters here, keeping everything sweet and giving the filling its structure.

Pink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade Bars get their color in two ways. The first is seedless raspberry purée, made from blitzing fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor and then pushing it through a sieve. I know that sounds tedious, but it takes all of five minutes. This will produce about 1/3 cup of purée, although you’ll only need to mix 1/4 cup into the filling.

Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée only.
Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée and Food Coloring.
You could certainly use only the raspberry purée to color the filling, but the pink may not be very vibrant. I wanted my bars to be a brighter pink, but no amount of raspberry purée by itself seemed to do the trick. Here, I’ve added a tiny amount of pink gel food coloring to achieve a berry color.

Bottom line: whether or not you choose to use food coloring, your bars will still be pink and lemony 😊

Pink Lemonade BarsThese bars bake up quickly, but must cool completely and be chilled before slicing—Pink Lemonade Bars are an excellent make-ahead dessert option. When you’re ready to serve, all you’ll need to do is slice them up and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. Your friends and family will love this twist on an old favorite.Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, 9-16 bars

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Filling:
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 large lemons)
red or pink food coloring, as desired (optional)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes, until it begins to set.

Make the filling. Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Process until puréed. Push raspberry purée through a sieve to remove seeds. This should produce about 1/3 cup raspberry purée. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until homogeneous. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk, followed by lemon juice and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of raspberry purée. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake 18-22 minutes, until the center of the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars.

Immediately before serving, place a cooling rack over wax paper. Place cut bars on rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.

Leftover bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Add more confectioner’s sugar as necessary.

Lemon Bars

 I have bought six pounds of flour and two pounds of sugar this week. That’s nothing new for me, a person who regularly has to explain why she needs eight pounds of butter to the cashiers at Trader Joe’s. But here on Swans Island, where there’s one lone store for all 300 residents, people want to know what on earth you’re doing with all that flour and sugar. Long story short, every person I’ve run into at TIMS now knows that there’s a baker staying down the road.

It’s not like I was trying hide it, standing waist-deep in a ditch, picking raspberries and waving at passing cars with my friend, Liz. But it’s funny how now, for the last three days, every time I walk into that little general store, the sweet cashier wants to know what I’m going to bake next. When I mentioned yesterday that I was testing my recipe for lemon bars, the she and a woman standing in line behind me simultaneously said “Ohhhh, I love lemon bars.” After I got home from the beach today, I put four on a plate and drove them over. 

Lemon Bars are one of my favorite summertime treats. Bright and lemony with a not-too-sweet shortbread crust, I don’t think there’s anything more refreshing than biting into one straight from the fridge.

And they’re super easy, too. Cut together flour, sugar, salt, and cold butter, and press the crumbly mixture into a pan. Bake that for ten minutes just to set, and let it cool while you make the filling. Rub lemon zest into sugar, and whisk in a couple of eggs and a yolk, a little melted butter, some half-and-half and a ton of lemon juice. I like to add a touch of vanilla, just to round out all the lemon. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour and the tiniest bit of salt before pouring it over the crust. Bake it for 40 minutes, just until it no longer jiggles when the pan is jostled. 

 The hardest part of making Lemon Bars is letting them cool. Once they’re out of the oven, they need to cool to room temperature. Then they need to be refrigerated for at least three hours. This will seem absolutely endless, but as far as I’m concerned, Lemon Bars should always be eaten cold. Once all that cooling and chilling is done, all that’s left to do is slice them into bars, dust them with confectioner’s sugar and eat three in rapid succession.

Lemon Bars are a classic–perfect for any occasion. Even popping into the general store in a nine year-old terry cloth bathing suit cover-up with smeared mascara and sand in your hair. My appearance aside, these sweet little bars were a hit.

I can’t help but wonder what the nice people at TIMS will think when I go in and buy four pounds of peaches tomorrow. 

 Lemon Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Filling:
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons half-and-half (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For Topping:
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving overhang at the edges. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Mixture will be very crumbly and dry. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar. Use your fingertips to rub zest into sugar until completely combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Whisk in melted butter, followed by half-and-half (or heavy cream), lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes, tenting with foil at the 10 minute mark. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.

Set a cooling rack over a piece of wax paper. Use the foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel foil from the edges. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Set bars on prepared rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars.

Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

 How is it only Tuesday?

I’m going on vacation this Friday, and the anticipation is making this week seem absolutely endless. I can’t wait to be on an island off the coast of Maine with three of my closest girlfriends. We’re going to cook, hike, lay on the beach (if it’s not too cool), read, and relax. There’s no television or Internet, so we’ll be almost completely off the grid. It might not be your kind of vacation, but living in New York City, the idea of escaping literally all of the hustle and bustle is paradise. 

Until then, though, I’ve got plenty to do. Besides organizing the last details of our vacation, I’ve left my nanny job and gone full-time at my personal chef job. I get paid to cook dinner–that’s the dream, right?! Well, it is for me.

I’ve also been baking like crazy trying to get this blog so that it can function without me for a week. It might be a little quiet around here next week, but I’m hoping to write a post or two from the Wi-Fi porch at the island’s public library. 

 But I’m getting ahead of myself and haven’t said a word about today’s recipe, and that’s a real shame since I’ve looked forward to posting it for two weeks. This Lemon Yogurt Cake is bright, sweet, soft, extra lemony, and totally delicious. The cake itself is made super tender thanks to a cup of plain yogurt and a big hit of fresh lemon juice. Once it’s baked, the cake is soaked in an easy lemon syrup before being drizzled with a thick vanilla glaze. You could certainly make the glaze with lemon juice instead of milk, but I think the creamy texture pairs really well with the double-dose of lemon in the cake!

This Lemon Yogurt Cake is perfect for entertaining. I think it would be great for casual dinner parties, nice picnics, or taking to a friend who could use a nice surprise. Of course, it’s a wonderful cake to have around for no reason at all. After all, it’s hard to think about your never-ending to-do list when you’re eating a slice of cake! 

 Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes one 12.5 cup-capacity bundt pan*

For the pan:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
8 ounces plain yogurt (nonfat is fine)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract (optional)

Lemon Syrup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3-4 tablespoons milk of choice
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare the pan. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour and oil. Use a pastry brush to paint the mixture onto the entire inside of the pan. Make sure to cover every crevice. Pour out any excess. Set pan aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use clean fingers to rub together lemon zest and sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Mix in plain yogurt, followed by lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon extract (if using). Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth out the top. Tap pan on the counter five times before baking for 40-45 minutes. Cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edges of the pan before inverting cake onto a rack to cool completely. Set rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Make lemon syrup. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil and let cook for three minutes, until slightly thickened. Let syrup cool five minutes before spooning over cooled cake. Let cake sit for 20 minutes before carefully transferring to a serving plate.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk and vanilla. If a thinner glaze is desired, add another tablespoon of milk. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let set for 20 minutes before serving.

Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

This recipe may be divided into two 9×5″ loaf pans, although I am unsure of the bake time.

Blueberry Compote

 For all the things I love about baking, the time commitment is not one of them. It’s rare that I make anything that can be done and ready to serve in under 90 minutes. I pride myself on my patience, but sometimes the idea that a batch of cookies is going to take four hours is enough to make me insane. 

Enter this Blueberry Compote. It only has four ingredients, involves almost no actual work, and takes 20 minutes start-to-finish. And oh, is it good–burst blueberries in a not-too-sweet lemon-scented syrup. It’s just begging to be stirred into yogurt or poured over pancakes or ice cream. It’s a sauce that can be used on any breakfast or dessert item you can imagine. 

 This is my kind of mid-week recipe–the kind that goes from “just” ingredients to absolute magic in almost no time at all. Simmer a cup of water and a little sugar together until it thickens slightly and becomes a thin syrup. Fold in two pounds of fresh blueberries and simmer a few more minutes until they start to burst. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the juice and zest of a lemon. Ladle it into a jar, and you’re done. Seriously. That’s it. 

Blueberry Compote works almost anywhere you can think to use it. It would be divine with cheesecake or waffles, but it’s also healthy enough to eat with yogurt for a quick weekday breakfast. Oh, and it is absolutely amazing with angel food cake, pound cake, or the Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake I’m posting later this week! Stay tuned… 

 Blueberry Compote
makes about one quart

1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 lbs fresh blueberries
juice and zest of 1 lemon

In a large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to keep crystals from forming.

Add blueberries and let simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice and zest. Cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls

 After making Blackberry Lime Scones last week, I came up with about fifteen new berry-based recipes to make between now and Labor Day, by which time I’ll be ready to ditch summer fruit for pumpkin. Probably. I dont think I could ever get tired of fresh summer produce.

First on the list? These Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls! Soft pastry filled with lemon-scented raspberries and drizzled with a simple lemon glaze. Served warm (with or without a fork), they’re like a ray of sunshine in breakfast form. That may sound a little ridiculous, but make these and you’ll understand. 

These sweet rolls start with a simple yeast dough. Yes, I just said yeast dough was simple. Yes, I meant to do that. For some unknown reason, yeast remains the most intimidating ingredient in American baking. It really shouldn’t be–there’s nothing to be afraid of. The most nerve-wracking part is proofing (waiting to see if it’s alive), and that’s really no trouble at all. But if it’s still intimidating for you, well, this dough might be the place to start.

You see, the dough for this recipe is made with instant yeast, so there is no waiting for anything to prove. As long as your instant yeast isn’t past the expiration date on the package, it should work just fine! Also, there’s only one rise, so these rolls can be made start-to-finish in less than three hours. The yeast is mixed with all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, and salt. A mixture of warm water, milk, and butter is stirred into the dry ingredients, followed by an egg. Stir until everything is combined and sticky, and then add flour in small increments until a smooth dough forms. Let it rest for ten minutes. The dough may expand a bit, but won’t really rise at this point. 

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (or vaguely rectangular oval, if you’re me 😜). Spread that with softened butter, and then cover the whole thing with frozen raspberries that have been tossed with lemon zest, sugar, salt, and a touch of cornstarch. I know it’s tempting to use fresh raspberries this time of year, but they’re far too juicy for this recipe. 

Roll the raspberry-covered dough into a tight cylinder, and slice it into 1-inch rolls. I know it’s easy to eyeball this, but I recommend using a ruler. I keep one in my kitchen, and I use it way more than I ever would have expected. 

 Place the cut rolls in a lightly-greased square baking dish. Tent the pan loosely with foil, and leave it in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes, until the rolls have doubled in size. I put my rolls in an oven that I’ve preheated to 200F. Once I’ve tented the pan with foil, I turn off the oven and put the pan in there. In about an hour, my rolls are risen. Works every time!Uncover the risen rolls, and bake in a 375F oven for 25-30 minutes, until puffy and golden. Tent them with foil again if they’re starting to brown too quickly (mine were at the corners). Let the rolls cool for a few minutes while you mix together an easy lemon glaze. Drizzle that over the warm rolls and dig in! 

Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls are like summer in breakfast form! They’re perfect for brunch, end-of-school gifts for teachers, or just because you want something more interesting than your usual granola for breakfast. They’d be a fantastic way to start Memorial Day weekend, too! 

 Looking more more sweet rolls? Check out my Mini Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls (no yeast required!) and Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls!

Looking for more raspberry breakfast recipes? Check out my Overnight Raspberry Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast Bake!

Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls
makes about 12 rolls

Dough:
1 1/4-1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour*
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 packet instant yeast* (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk (I use whole milk)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, room temperature

Filling:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups frozen raspberries* (not thawed)
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the dough. Set aside 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour. In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, bread flour, granulated sugar, salt, and yeast. In a small saucepan*, heat water, milk, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter over low heat until the mixture reaches 115F. Remove from heat and stir into the flour mixture. Stir in egg. Add reserved all-purpose flour in 2 tablespoon increments until the dough is smooth and soft*, pulling away from the side of the bowl when stirred. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Prepare the filling. Place frozen raspberries and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine sugar, salt, and lemon zest. Use clean fingers to rub the zest into the sugar and salt until it is all well-mixed and fragrant. Add lemon-sugar mixture to raspberries, and toss until everything is combined.

Grease a 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Roll dough into an 8″x14″ rectangle. Spread softened butter over the entire surface of the dough. Spread raspberry mixture over the softened butter.

Starting at the long edge of the dough furthest from your body, roll the dough tightly toward yourself until you have one long cylinder. Using a large, sharp knife (not serrated) cut 1-inch rolls. Place cut rolls close together in prepared baking dish. Loosely tent with foil. Place rolls in a warm, draft-free place to rise for 60-90 minutes, until they have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Uncover risen rolls. Bake for 25-30 minutes, tenting with foil again at 10 minutes if the tops are getting too brown. Let rolls cool on a rack for ten minutes.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar and salt. Use a fork to whisk in lemon juice and vanilla. Add more confectioner’s sugar or lemon juice until the desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over warm rolls.

Raspberry Lemon Sweet Rolls are best enjoyed the day they are made, but may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Notes:

1. If you do not have bread flour, all purpose flour may be substituted. Your rolls may not be as soft and chewy as if you’d used the bread flour, but they will still be delicious.
2. I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast.
3. Do not use fresh raspberries for this recipe. They are too juicy to work well here.
4. I usually need 6 tablespoons of the reserved flour to achieve the desired consistency.